Who Wants My Grandmother’s Dining Room Table? We Keep Memories, Our Millennial Kids Don’t.



In a rare burst of hospitable energy, I invited my friend, Liz and the new longish-term man in her life, to come to dinner on Sunday night. Anticipating our  dinner guests, ever so subtly my husband suggested that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to clean and organize my study.

The New Man, my husband noted, might be put off, if – while en route to our “powder room” – he caught a glimpse of my work area with its disheveled stacks of files and heaps of my carefully curated, extremely relevant, never-to-be-discarded or read again newspaper articles?

O.K., so I am a collector, do you have a problem with that?

If you are in my general age bracket, you may be a collector too. Of newspaper articles, vintage jewelry boxes, antique candle sticks, old sports memorabilia.

A recent article in the Washington Post  confirmed what I had suspected – our adult millennial children are not like us. They do not collect.

Millennials, the article tells us, don’t keep their old college text books in their basement like we do we did. They live simpler lives, preferring their own personal design aesthetic to inherited brown furniture.

I am coming to grips with this fact.

It is highly unlikely that my own kids will want my grandmother’s large, mahogany dining room table nor will they fight over my well-loved, but hardly used (I’m still saving it for “good”), 12 place settings of ornate sterling silver.

We boomers believe that our memories are stored in tangible objects.  Our adult kids do not wax as nostalgic over generational hand-me-downs. They value intangibles instead. Posting their experiences as they experience them, they instagram, they snapchat and then, poof, what could become a memory quickly disappears.

How will our adult kids pass down memories to their own kids if their memories never leave their iPhones?

Yet another problem I won’t be around to solve.

I do see the Millennial attraction to intangibles. They are definitely the lighter way to go.

Admission:  Sometimes I feel tied down by, rather than affectionate towards, the very tangible objects in which my family memories are stored. My grandmother’s dining room table has never been and is not now, let’s face it, an attractive piece of furniture. It is an ungainly space occupier that can seat 12 people. The last time I hosted 12 people at a sit-down dinner was never.

But a few years ago when I considered  – in a brief, wild, rebellious moment  – that I might rid myself of the old dining room table and purchase a new more contemporary one, I could not bring myself to do it.

Sad to contemplate, then, that the big brown dining room table along with my grandfather’s collection of old beer steins and my aunt’s no longer tunable piano will probably end their useful lives in a tag sale, a thrift shop or shudder to think, our county dump.

So when it came time to plan the menu for our Sunday dinner for four, I decided to go all out. Let’s put some sentimental items to work for a change!

Put an old white tablecloth that was my mother’s onto the big brown table. Use a vase we received as a wedding present 37 years ago for flowers. Hand-wash the crystal, half-moon-shaped salad plates that have quietly resided in the china cabinet for all these years. Drag the sterling silver flatware downstairs for its annual airing. Just using all of these tangible objects did make me feel a bit nostalgic.

But I firmly draw the line at cleaning and/or organizing my study.

I do plan, however, you will be glad to hear, to give a full cleaning to our “powder room” (in which, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever applied powder)  before Liz and her New Man arrive. I figure if he is as thoughtful and kind as Liz says he is, he will also be smart enough to look the other way if happens upon my messy study. I am too attached to the reassuring existence of my carefully curated nest of newspaper articles to sort through and discard any of them – at least for now.

Why mess with my memories while I still have them?







Filed under Adult Kids, Baby Boomers, Family, Female Friends, friendship, Husbands, Parenting, Women

12 responses to “Who Wants My Grandmother’s Dining Room Table? We Keep Memories, Our Millennial Kids Don’t.

  1. jan

    I am so your age.


  2. I’m not a Millennial, exactly, but in my mid-30s and often considered “the younger” generation (since I’m just under the cusp fro Gen-X I seem to end up grouped into younger crowds). I’d read the article you’re referring to and would actually disagree with a lot of it. Personally I LOVE the things I have from the past, I was so excited to know that I was getting the huge old wooden desk that has been in my family for generations. I’m excited to some day be able to use the full china-set that I have inherited. But that’s the key, “some day” Part of the issue is that a lot of people of “younger generations” (read: anyone under baby-boomer at this point) haven’t been able to have the stability of household. Life has forced many of us to move fair distances where hanging onto old, heavy, items is not feasible. Additionally, many of us are living with limited means (thank you very much, student-loan debt and a bad economy), and in smaller housing. None of the places I’ve lived would have been able to hold a full set of dinning room furniture!
    There are, of course, those who don’t have such attachment to objects, but their memories are carried in the stories they tell, pictures they take. Because when it comes down to it, the memories that one associates with an object are going to change. While I know that the desk I have once occupied the farmhouse of my great-great-grandmother’s house (and it has meaning to me because of the genealogical work I’ve done), the real memories of it are tied to it’s place in my grandparents home. A younger generations memories of it would be tied to something completely different.
    I’m rambling… anyhow, I say YES, embrace the objects you have that have memory, think about how you are enjoying them now… and worry about what to do if the younger generations doesn’t want them when you get to that point. 🙂


  3. I hear you! I was brought up that ‘Buffet’ is a dirty word, hence, those big tables.My sister has my parents old extension table that when all collapsed she can keep in her entry. It sure is handy when we have a group of 12+, except we do need help to get the leaves and then the folding chairs down from her attic.


  4. Great post. I’m technically a Gen-Xer, born in 1975, and my mom and I have these discussions all the time. Reading this made me think about the discussions I have with my six and seven year old sons about clutter and collecting. They went from never wanting to throw anything away to cleaning up behind me saying, “Mom, this already brought joy. Now it’s interfering with your peace. Let’s give it to someone who will love it more…” I encouraged this behavior but now I find it rather unnerving at times. I want them to actually take care of the things they value and limit what makes it into our home in the first place. I consider myself somewhat sentimental, but stuff isn’t usually what reminds me of the people who’ve passed on. Years ago I read a wonderful book that gave great suggestions for figuring out what to keep and what to toss — It’s All Too Much, by Peter Walsh. Ultimately I want to spend time with those who I love and if I hold on to stuff, I want to make sure it adds to my happiness and isn’t just there because I don’t know what to do with it and feel guilty tossing it.


  5. I’ve been going through similar “culling” woes. I was convinced that I’d have to keep certain things–ugly or not-me as they were–because it would hurt too much to give them up. And yet…when I actually did it, the pain was brief and the regret nonexistent. Weird.

    Granted, I’m lucky that my daughter, at least, has her millennial eye on the few truly beautiful family heirlooms we own. My son? We could probably burn it all and he wouldn’t notice. 🙂


  6. I wrote an essay about my father’s battered old desk that sits in my office. My nephew then asked me if I would leave it to him. I was surprised! So we modified our will.


  7. Ah, my very dilemma. My kids seem more interested in what an object is worth than what it MEANS. I’m trying to cull.


  8. greg

    Daisy’s dining room table ugly?! Blasphemy! Beware of Karma sweetie.


  9. greg

    Annual airing of silverware???!!! Did you have a bad trip back in the 70s that’s had a residual effect?


  10. memorten

    Ah–so you admit you are a hoarder. So are my 90 yr old in-laws. I suspect our kids will have a tremendous archive in the web. Good thing is, they won’t have to look at any clutter as long as its all on the web!


  11. Great discussion! I hate stuff . . . but I think it’s less about my age (38) than about my parents having SO MUCH STUFF. My daughters are (so far) very attached to every item they own. Maybe it flip flops in every generation?


  12. Jules

    We received a large canteen of silver cutlery as a wedding present 33 years ago. At the time I loved it. However, I decided when we moved recently I no longer loved it and had no desire to care for it. I returned it to the Aunt from whom we received it. She was delighted to have it. She runs a small B&B and can use it often. Neither of my daughters was interested in it. On the other hand cup, saucer and plate sets from both my mother and grandmother have been highly desired by the girls! I have kept a number of them and use them often. I do not feel compelled to keep items just because they were gifts or are old. I try to find some one who does like the item and then if not I send it to the local thrift shop in the hope it may bring joy to someone else. Value is no measure of worth, in my mind. My grandfather’s single cup, battered teapot is one of my treasures unlike the expensive silver cutlery!


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